The Hotel Chelsea, Reborn (Plus Three More Iconic NYC Stays)

The Hotel Chelsea, Reborn (Plus Three More Iconic NYC Stays)

With a history more chequered than its flooring, Manhattan’s Hotel Chelsea is back in business and looking to inspire a new generation of creatives. We check it out – along with three other NYC crashpads big on backstory.

hotel reviews were dating profiles, you’d swipe left on New
York City’s Hotel
– “desperate” and “grimy” being just a couple of the
disparaging adjectives to have been lobbed its way over the years.
But, on considering that “desperate” came from the pen of singer,
songwriter and punk poet laureate Patti Smith, and “grimy” from
that of Arthur Miller, one of the greatest living playwrights of
the 20th century, and that these two number among literally dozens
of legendary artists to have lived in and worked out of the
1884-opened “flophouse”, you might find your thumb hovering.

Having sashayed back onto the scene this spring, following an
11-year hiatus, the eccentric yet seductive West 23rd Street
building has had a top-to-toe makeover, courtesy of new owners, NYC
hospitality heavyweights Sean MacPherson, Ira Drukier and Richard
Born. The trio, who bought the hotel in 2016 for a reported £208
million, are behind the relaunch of all-day-diner El Quijote, the
moody, solarium-flanked Lobby Bar (the property’s first – official
– drinking den) and new outdoor space.

The bed in a guest room at NYC's Hotel Chelsea
The Lobby Bar

One of 115 guest rooms, left, and the Lobby Bar. | Photo
credit: Annie Schlechter

Available to book are 155 guest rooms spanning 14 categories,
from the bijou Studio Queen to the lofty two-bed Pied-à-Terre,
whose interiors meld notes of rock ‘n’ roll – chairs upholstered in
tiger print, Marshall bluetooth speakers on bedside tables – with a
Victoriana palette – soft furnishings in mustard, carpets of deep
burgundy, headboards reminiscent of vintage tapestries and plenty
of purple.

It’s the original features that have survived the refurb,
though, that will entice those seeking ghosts of the past. Did Andy
Warhol walk across that mosaic-marble-tile floor while shooting
here? Janis Joplin trail her fingertips along that brass rail? Were
the passing faces of Stanley Kubrick, Leonard Cohen, Allan
Ginsberg, Bob Dylan et al reflected in that mirror? Then, there’s
the black wrought-iron staircase bannister that partygoers would’ve
passed on one of Hotel Chelsea’s most tragic nights, 12 October
1978, when an out-of-it Sid Vicious of the Sex Pistols stabbed
girlfirend Nancy Spungen to death. Mercifully, still here – to have
got rid of them would have been sacrilege – are many of the
artworks given by former residents to the hotel’s longtime former
manager Stanley Bard in lieu of cash when they couldn’t make

The reception desk at Hotel Chelsea, NYC

The infamous bannister above reception, left, and a window
seat. | Photo credit: Annie Schlechter

Further to an outcry over what was to become of them, full-time
inhabitants who obtained their Hotel Chelsea apartments through New
York’s rent stabilisation scheme many years ago won the right to
remain in situ. Who knows, some may be willing to stop, connect and
share war stories in the lobby. These stalwarts would undoubtedly
champion the memory of Philip Hubert, architect of this one-time
utopian commune. A devotee of the socialist theories of French
philosopher Charles Fourier, he was responsible for the city’s
first cooperative apartment houses, in which tenants saved money by
pooling fuel and services. Hubert made sure there were apartments
for the tradespeople who’d built the hotel, surrounding these
electricians, plumbers and construction workers with writers,
musicians and artists.

Sure, sipping Manhattans in the Lobby Bar might be new for 2022,
as is the monogrammed 400-count bed linen with crimson piping, but
this is a bolthole built on stories as much as bricks and mortar.
Walking its hallowed hallways can’t fail to fire up the
imagination. Because, in the words of Patti Smith: “Everybody
passing through here is somebody, if nobody in the outside

If walls could speak: three more character-packed NYC stays
with history

The Bowery bar


The Bowery Hotel

East Village

If it’s good enough for Gigi Hadid, Jennifer Lopez, Kate Hudson,
Kristen Stewart… The embodiment of gritty chic, this place started
out as the far more prosaic Dry Dock Savings Bank, designed by
architect Leopold Eidlitz in 1875. Demolished in 1954 and replaced
with a gas station, part of which has been retained – hence the
“1954” on the corner parapet – the Bowery has been dazzling the New
York in-crowd since 2007. Capturing the essence of bohemian
apartment living, this is a stay for those who appreciate moody
lighting, gothic styling and prime people-watching – the in-house
Gemma restaurant has seen more than its fair share of gossip in its


335 Bowery
NY 10003


The Maritime Hotel

Meatpacking District

Conceived by New Orleans modernist architect Albert Ledner in
1968 as HQ for the National Maritime Union, and open in its current
guise since 2003, this 125-cabin, nautically themed Chelsea stay
makes for a memorable voyage of NYC discovery. The plush, playful
cruise ship-like design makes the most of the building’s Hudson
River views, with porthole windows being a fun feature of your snug
but oh-so-stylish quarters. Peruse the wooden bookshelves – which
house a National Geographic collection dating back to 1965 – dine
at intimate Italian trattoria La Bottega or basement Japanese
crowd-pleaser Matsuri, then set sail to explore the vibrant
Meatpacking District, home to the Whitney Museum, the High Line
elevated park and shopping mecca Chelsea Market.


99 Ninth Ave, New York, NY 10011

The entrance to Washington Square Hotel


Washington Square Hotel

Greenwich Village

Another crashpad once considered crummy, the now ultra-refined
Washington Square Hotel started its hospitality life in 1902, as
the Hotel Earle. Among those to have passed through are Ernest
Hemingway, who stayed here before shipping out to serve in the
First World War, Dylan Thomas and his wife Caitlin, in the 1950s,
and a long line-up of musicians including Barbra Streisand, Bo
Diddley, Chuck Berry and the Rolling Stones. Today, the art
deco-influenced decor pays homage to the address’s starry past,
featuring an array of prints, paintings and photos; spacious,
smartly dressed rooms offer luxurious amenities; and the rooftop
garden delivers organic produce to on-site North Square


103 Waverly Pl, New York, NY 10011

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